Director points to successes and areas for improvement after first full day of school
With nearly 88,000 students coming back to school for a new year, the Metro Schools leadership team is closely examining what went well and what areas need greater support. In a detailed memo to principals and other school leaders, Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph acknowledges the concerns seen and heard in schools and spells out ways they are being addressed.
“We feel like it’s been a good start to the year, but overall I give us a grade of B,” said Dr. Joseph. “We had some great successes, largely due to our phenomenal principals and school staff. The schools look great, the staff are friendly and easy to access and everyone is working with a positive attitude. But there are some issues we saw in multiple areas of the district that we know we need to fix. The next steps are for my team to find resolutions, and quickly, so that principals can worry more about instruction and less about late buses and enrollment questions.”
Leading up to the first day, Dr. Joseph tasked central office leadership with visiting every school between August 3 and August 12 to observe schools, talk to principals and teachers and see what supports need to be given. At the end of each day during this period, the central office team gathers together to go over the issues found and make a plan for solutions.
Some of the issues found in the first two days of school include:
Several families in Metro Schools were not assigned school bus routes over the summer as they should have been. This is likely due to issues related to moving to a new student data system, as some student addresses were not transferred in the move. Enrollment staff members are working right now to ensure every student has a valid address, and transportation staff members are working to get them into the routing software as quickly as possible.This issue is leading to some delays in school bus service and, in some cases, families not having a route at all. District officials acknowledge this is a problem, and are working to solve it for all families. In the meantime, families can check the Find Your Bus Stop tool online to see if they have school bus information available. If they do not, they can contact the Family Information Center at 615-259-INFO (4636) or by email at FamilyInfo@mnps.org to create a record of their individual issues.
Families continue to enroll throughout the first day of school, and instructions for school staff about enrollment were not clear enough. This caused some confusion over who was responsible for enrollment and how it should be handled. There are also several students with information waiting to be entered into the new student data system, which came online July 11.Schools have now been given clear instructions on how to enroll students on the spot, without having to send them to an Enrollment Center, along with all necessary forms. Enrollment staff members are working to ensure proper entry of all students who have completed the enrollment process.
- Family Information Center
With increased phone call volume related to the start of schools, along with an antiquated phone system in the process of being replaced, the Family Information Center phone lines crashed for two hours on the first day of school, leaving many families with no answers to their questions. The system remains at capacity, leading to long wait times and, in some cases, disconnected calls.The phone system is being replaced with a more modern system, though that will not be finished until early fall. Call volume is expected to return to normal levels in the second week of school, which should allow for faster answer times and quicker resolutions. However, other solutions are also under discussion to provide more immediate relief.
Other common issues seen in schools involve access to the new student data system, custodial services and interpretation for families who do not speak English. They are detailed in a memo to school leaders. You can also view the observation checklist used by district leadership during school visits.
“Like we’ve been saying, we have high expectations of ourselves, and we need to live up to and exceed them,” said Dr. Joseph. “That includes giving schools everything they need to serve students. Right now, we’re falling a little short. We need to acknowledge it, fix it and move forward in the school year.
“It was a busy summer for us, with a brand new leadership team coming on board in July, hiring nearly 30 principals, changing systems and processes – we did a lot. But we can always do more, and the lessons we learned this week will make us stronger this year and next August when we open the doors on 2017.”
Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph has released the official entry plan for his leadership transition into Metro Schools. The plan covers all areas of priority and activities for his first 100 days on the job, excluding weekends.
The entry plan is designed to launch a long-term, sustainable strategic planning process that will drive the district forward. It will take Dr. Joseph to all corners of Nashville and into every Metro School in order to give him a comprehensive view and understanding of the district, the city and all major stakeholders. Simultaneously, it will help him build the relationships needed to address immediate, short-term needs and design and execute long-term strategies. All of this will happen on an accelerated timeline and while normal operation of the district continues, so no time is wasted standing still.
“This plan is ambitious because it has to be,” said Dr. Joseph. “The children of Nashville deserve excellence now. They don’t have any time to waste. I intend to hit the ground running and expect my leadership team to join me in running fast so that we can give our students the education they deserve and help them maximize their potential. I promise to be relentless in pursuing excellence for all children, and in this plan I ask Nashville to do the same.”
Dr. Joseph wrote the plan to achieve five broad goals for his transition:
- Ensure an effective, efficient and orderly transition of leadership with a focus on increased achievement for all children;
- develop a trusting, productive and collaborative relationship with the Board of Education;
- create opportunities for deep engagement and listening with all stakeholders;
- proactively seek inclusion of all voices, not just those traditionally in the conversation; and
- build excitement, momentum and sustained engagement in the district’s vision and work.
To achieve these goals, the plan is structured with specific action items to address several priority areas:
- Governance: Activities that will help build positive, team-oriented relationships with individual Board members and with the Board as a whole.
- Organizational Capacity: Examining the alignment and culture of the district office to ensure a high-performing, results-oriented executive team is in place to support the work of schools.
- Student Achievement: Evaluating instructional supports for teachers and school staff, including curriculum, professional development, and tools to monitor students’ progress.
- Community and Public Relations: Building and sustaining two-way dialogues with all key stakeholders, especially with those who are traditionally underrepresented in public education. Assessing the district’s communication systems and processes to ensure openness and transparency.
- Operation and Finance: Appraising each district division to determine how they maximize support and service to schools.
Work on this plan has already begun. The action items for each priority area include activities that have been underway during Dr. Joseph’s “pre-entry” period, as well as tasks he will undertake after he officially begins work in the district on July 5.
“This plan is indicative of the methodical and deliberate approach Dr. Joseph has taken throughout his career and what was well demonstrated in his interactions during the interview process,” said Board of Education Chair Dr. Sharon Gentry. “It’s a comprehensive plan that shows near term goals that will have an immediate impact on the culture of the district. Dr. Joseph is moving with a sense of urgency and brings the change the district needs to support the bold action that will be necessary for progress, and I’m beyond excited to be a part of it.”
Aiding in execution of this plan will be a transition team made up of local and national experts, parents and district staff. They will come together into four subcommittees to study and give recommendations that will form the basis for the district’s new strategic plan. The transition team members are expected to be named later this month.
The transition team work and Dr. Joseph’s long-term plans for the district will also be informed by broad community input. Last week, Dr. Joseph and the Board of Education announced a series of 11 community meetings, called “Listen & Learn” sessions. The first one is scheduled for Dr. Joseph’s first day on the job. All of them will take place prior to the start of school on Aug. 3.
“I want to build a collective vision for the future of Metro Schools, hand-in-hand with the Board, parents, staff and community leaders,” said Dr. Joseph. “Effective, sustainable change can’t come from the top down. It has to be built from the bottom up, and I look forward to starting that work on day one.”
The end goal of the entire entry plan is to build a launching pad for the next era in Metro Schools. A full report of all findings, observations and key lessons from community engagement will be paired with an outline for a new strategic planning process that will review the current strategic plan, Education 2018. With the community energized behind the work, Nashville will chart a new course forward for its students.
The Board of Education is searching for a new Director of Schools. Dr. Jesse Register will retire from Metro Schools this summer, and the Board has set a goal of finding the new Director by late June.
You can play a big part in this search process. Your opinions are vital to helping the Board know what kind of district leader Nashville needs. The input you give will have a direct impact on the kinds of candidates the Board seeks and the ultimate decision of who is hired.
There are three ways to participate:
- Take a short online survey at http://www.ecrasurvey.com/MNPS
- Email your comments to Board.Administrator@mnps.org
- Come to one of three public forums on the Director search:
|Tuesday, April 14
I.T. Creswell Middle Prep
3500 John Mallette Dr, 37218
|Wednesday, April 15
Cane Ridge High School
12848 Old Hickory Blvd, 37013
|Thursday, April 16
East Nashville Magnet School
110 Gallatin Rd, 37206
At tonight’s Board meeting, members approved the Director’s Evaluation for Dr. Jesse Register. The evaluation praised his leadership in moving the district forward, saying “this positive movement forward inspires a growing sense of possibility as well as urgency to increase the pace of improvement.”
Bright spots across the district- where several schools drove dramatic increases in student achievement- help give us that greater sense of urgency, and promising district-wide growth tells us that we can and must move the needle across the board. All of this speaks to the leadership of Dr. Register and the herculean effort it takes to lead and manage a system of 10,000 people strong serving 81,000 kids; countless duties ranging from getting the buses to run safely and on time to ensuring that we train and develop our instructional leaders all fall under Dr. Register’s remit, and we commend him for taking us forward over the last year.
Yet before us lies an incredible opportunity and challenge; we have made progress, but we- the board and Dr. Register collectively- see the need for increased pace of change that builds off everything we’ve learned thus far re: driving better student achievement outcomes; we want world-class teaching and learning in every classroom, which itself is driven by everything from better recruitment, selection, and retention of outstanding principals and teachers to exceptional coaching and development of the 6000 teacher and principal leaders in our schools to community support and engagement in the effort. Put another way, and in Dr. Register’s words, we want every school to be a great school that is capable of providing the kind of education that enables kids to do whatever they want in life.
Dr. Register scored a 3.93 out of 5 possible points.
Elissa Kim, chair of the Evaluation Committee, also said they would look at making changes to the evaluation process to focus on goals and measurable achievement.